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Four Major Types of Asphalt Failure and How to Spot Them

by | Oct 28, 2019

Your asphalt should look amazing the day it’s installed, but daily use along with sun and rain exposure present a serious challenge. Failure may occur prematurely due to the installation or materials used, the level of use and wear the pavement experiences, or a combination of other stresses. When this happens, and an investment in quality pavement is threatened, it can be important to understand why the asphalt is behaving the way it is, what the ultimate cause behind the stress or failure is, and how to best repair, restore, and correct the surface for continued use.

Four major types of asphalt failure that we deal with include:


In some cases, the asphalt layer as a whole may shift or transform under stress. The pavement may develop ruts along over-used wheel paths (rutting), or it may be forced sideways (shoving)—especially at intersections. Pits or depressions may also form if the asphalt settles improperly or isn’t adequately supported.


If vehicles don’t have adequate traction on an asphalt surface, serious hazards can arise for both drivers and pedestrians. The issue is generally caused by fallout from poor construction techniques or material selection, whether due to inadequate drainage (allowing standing water and ice in inclement conditions) or a poor aggregate mix that polishes smooth over time.


Some crack formation is natural and unavoidable. But excess cracking, or problematic cracking with specific causes, is a clear and obvious evidence of asphalt distress. This may include:

  • Fatigue/alligator cracking, caused by overuse
  • Block cracking, due to temperature shifts
  • Edge cracking, lack of support at pavement edge
  • Longitudinal cracking, poor construction, or aging
  • Transverse cracking, shrinking of asphalt layer
  • Slippage cracking, vehicle behavior, and wear
  • Reflection cracking, caused by movement of an old pavement layer below an overlay


Worst of all is disintegration, which presents as either pothole formation or raveling.

It’s relatively easy to identify potholes. They’re bowl-shaped failures in the asphalt surface that grow with wear and moisture exposure and often form as complications from cracking or other minor damage that isn’t properly resolved.

Raveling, on the other hand, involves the finer elements of the asphalt mixture breaking away as the entire surface disintegrates at once. This may be because of overuse or simple age, and you can identify raveling when the surface is extremely bumpy or uneven—often covered by a fine dust—and fewer and fewer small rocks are left at the surface, leaving behind the coarse stones.

Call the West Michigan Paving Experts

When your pavement becomes stressed, it’s important to choose a provider with the proper experience, equipment, and reputation to manage the job. Every day, Stripe A Lot delivers supremely high quality, attractive, and precise paving service with free, no obligation estimates.  To get started, contact us today for your professional assessment and free quote on asphalt paving or repair on your property.

We look forward to working with you soon!

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